Soccer

Beating Red Bulls in New York difficult, not impossible for United

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Beating Red Bulls in New York difficult, not impossible for United

The journey that is the Major League Soccer season is long. The wait for the next campaign is even longer and more painful when it ends in defeat. Against that backdrop D.C. United is fighting for survival Sunday on the road in game two of its Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Red Bulls.

While it is fair to say the Red Bulls were the better team last Sunday in the series opener against United, on the scoreboard, where it matters, the advantage was not by much. For all of the Red Bulls possession and chances, they were still only able to pinch one goal in the 72nd minute when Dax McCarty headed home a free kick.

In an aggregate-goal series where road scores are the tiebreaker, the goal was an important one. Still it was only one goal and it gives United a real chance on Sunday in Harrison, New Jersey. It is a chance with the understanding that United will have to dance on the fault line of being the aggressor while at the same time not allowing the Red Bulls to unleash their lethal attack.

There is belief in the United camp that the mission can be accomplished. All season there were doubters as United held a grip on first place in the Eastern Conference for most of the summer. In some ways United seems to enjoy the underdog role and the team’s fighting spirit is a reflection of its head coach Ben Olsen and his approach as a player.

United’s belief is tempered by harsh reality. In winning the Supporter’s Shield for the league’s best record, the Red Bulls were an impressive 12-3-2 at home. In the regular season United was outscored 5-0 in two meetings at Red Bull Arena.

The challenge:

1. United must score. I know it is stating the obvious, but United is the only team in the MLS Cup playoffs to have allowed more goals than it scored. The trade that brought Alvaro Saborio to United was supposed to electrify the team’s attack. The results have been mixed and Saborio has been even used in a substitute’s role. The skill and commitment is there when looking at United’s attack. Saborio with Fabian Espindola at forward can occupy opposing defenders and Chris Rolfe and Nick De Leon on the flanks can open up the field. It has to happen on Sunday. It is that simple. 

2. Injury concern. The play of Chris Pontius over the final month added to the confidence that United’s attack would be brighter in the postseason. Pontius is dealing with a hamstring injury and might not be able to play again on Sunday. Sean Franklin left game one of the series with an ankle injury and that leaves head coach Ben Olsen trying to sort out his backline. Another option at outside back Chris Korb is out for the season with a knee injury and that means United will have to shuffle. Bobby Boswell is back from suspension and he could partner in the middle of the defense with Kofi Opare with Steve Birnbaum being pushed wide. In the regular season Birnbaum started twice on the flank in defense, but it was at left back and not Franklin’s right back position. Luke Mishu and Miguel Aguilar are comfortable on the right side and could factor in Olsen’s thinking.

3. The Red Bulls. It is important to always give credit to the opponent. The Red Bulls are a very good possession and high press team. United’s disrupted that possession early in game one and showed signs of threatening. United will have to be fast and decisive to in its approach to handle the Red Bulls pressure. United also knows too well the peril of dealing with the Red Bulls. In the one result this year with the Red Bulls, United lost what appeared to be a comfortable 2-0 second half lead and had to settle for a 2-2 draw. That can’t happen on Sunday.

MORE D.C. UNITED: U.S. National team calls up Bill Hamid for World Cup qualifier

Wayne Rooney stuns D.C. soccer fans with surprise appearance during World Cup viewing

Wayne Rooney stuns D.C. soccer fans with surprise appearance during World Cup viewing

Washington Dulles International Airport was flooded by soccer fans alike Thursday afternoon awaiting the arrival of one specific person inside the international arrivals terminal: England's all-time goalscorer Wayne Rooney. 

Over 100 fans packed the halls as the 32-year-old made his way out of the airport while posing for pictures and signing autographs. 

Rooney penned a two-and-a-half year guaranteed contract worth about $13 million, which makes him the highest-paid player in D.C. United history. 

He officially becomes available to play for the club beginning July 10, after the transfer window opens. This means his first game could potentially be against Vancouver inside the brand new Audi Field July 10. 

After greeting fans at the airport, Rooney and his camp piled into two blacks SUVs en route to Northeast D.C. 

Little did World Cup fans taking in the England-Belgium match at Wunder Garten know that they were about to be surprised by Wayne Rooney himself. 

In an appearance that lasted just over seven minutes and included a slew of selfies, short conversations and one television interview, Rooney's presence dazzled fans and left others stunned. 

One England native who is now a D.C. resident told me: "We grew up watching him (Rooney) score in the World Cup and that was really important to us. It's hard to believe he just walked through here."

As you would imagine, management at Wunder Garten was thrilled, too.  

"It was great for us because it put us on the map. For someone as famous as Wayne Rooney to come through our establishment, shake hands and hang out, that means a lot. We loved having him here and would love to have him back," said Michael Keller, a member of the bar's management staff. 

 The Englishman will have his hands full as he attempts to put D.C. United back on the map this season. 

Follow Rooney on Twitter and Instagram @WayneRooney. 

World Cup Viewing Guide: The best soccer bars in Washington, D.C.

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USA TODAY Sports

World Cup Viewing Guide: The best soccer bars in Washington, D.C.

Although the United States men's national soccer team is irrelevant to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, there are still plenty of reasons to watch this summer. 

32 countries are making a run for the Cup, which includes both Iceland and Panama making their debuts in worldwide competition. 

In 2014, almost half of the world's population knew what was at stake. 

3.2 billion people tuned in to watch that year. 

Before venturing out to watch this year's madness, consider this list of local bars in the D.C. area: 

Caddies Bar and Grill (4922 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814) 

  • This sports bar located in the heart of Bethesda is offering $9.99 lunch specials Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Happy hour: Monday-Friday from 3-8 p.m. featuring $12 Bud Light, Miller Lite and Yuengling pitchers
  • @caddiescordell

 

Dock FC (1400 Okie St NE, Washington, DC 20002) 

  • Located in a former warehouse, this location is a hub for soccer fans in the D.C. area. 
  • World Cup Package: a pitcher of beer with nachos, churros and wings for $50 
  • Bucket special: 6 beers for $30 (Modelo Especial, Peroni, Heineken & PBR)
  • Food comes from two separate kitchens under the same ownership
  • Tacos/nachos comes from La Puerta Verde
  • Ari's Diner provides burgers, fries and breakfast foods 
  • Four projectors and a slew of TV's 
  • @DockFCDC

(Photo courtesy: @DockFCDC) 

Fado Irish Pub (808 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001) 

  • Guinness is widely argued as the top beer that goes hand in hand with watching soccer and Fado Irish Pub gives you both
  • $5 drink specials include Guinness, Goose Island, Red Bull and Red Bull Orange
  • June Beer of the Month: Harp Lager 
  • Bucket special: 5 beers for $25 
  • Hours: Sunday-Thursday to 2 a.m., Friday-Sunday to 3 a.m.
  • Limited $9.95 brunch deals (avocado toast and Irish breakfasts) 
  • Management is taking reservations throughout the month 
  • @fadodc

 

Franklin Hall (1348 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009) 

Per management, here is the official schedule for the World Cup at Franklin Hall: 

  • Saturday games: $3 Pints, $8 Liters of Narragansett 
  • Sunday games: $4 Pints of Founders Solid Gold, $7 Liters of Miller Lite
  • Tuesday games: $4 Port City Optimal Wit, $6 Giant soft Pretzel with Port City beer cheese
  • Wednesday games: $2 off all Liters and free toppings on all sausages
  • @FranklinHallDC

 

Lou's City Bar (1400 Irving St NW, Washington, DC 20010 )

  • Located next to Bar Roubaix, which was recently named the official bar of Poland, this NW DC area offers a diverse soccer atmosphere
  • Heineken specials: $4 drafts and $16 pitchers 
  • Fans from Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico crowd this bar and enjoy special dishes from each country
  • @Louscitybar

The Lucky Bar (1221 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036) 

  • Set to open early throughout the World Cup, Lucky Bar offers special Russian foods for breakfast and lunch
  • Cocktails include The Putin, Moscow Mule and White & Black Russians 
  • Per management, the atmosphere has been electric throughout the first week with big crowds for Denmark, Iceland and Russia 
  • @luckybardc

 

Public Bar (1214 18th St NW B, Washington, DC 20036) 

  • Heineken specials: $5 drafts and $30 buckets 
  • A hot spot for Mexicans, Peruvians, Colombians and Argentinians 
  • Per management, a Mariachi band will be playing ahead of Mexico's match on 6/23 
  • @PUBLICBAR

 

The Queen Vic   (1206 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002) 

  • This Old English Pub in NE DC offers a traditional British menu for soccer fans throughout the World Cup 
  • Draft specials: $5 Carlsberg and Jameson 
  • Per management, if there is an England match, it will be on with sound throughout the entire bar
  • @thequeenvicdc 

 

Have thoughts on my Top 8? Hop on Twitter and let me know @BobTrosset.